Oasis Of The Seas – Smooth Sailing All The Way
Written by: Cruise News
June 20, 2013.
By Dave Beers, Editor of Cruise Reviews
On December 1, 2009, I boarded Oasis Of The Seas for a 4-night cruise that was actually it’s first revenue cruise although it was not given credit for it. That honor was bestowed on the first 7-night voyage which started on December 5, at the end of our little run to Labadee with two sea days on each end. I returned to Oasis earlier this month for a 7-night cruise to the western Caribbean itinerary, and I decided I’d post some observations about how the cruise went and also make a few comparisons with that first trip over three years earlier.
On the first cruise some finishing work was still being performed – this even after the slew of preview cruises for the media, travel agents, and other VIPs. I recall sitting at the Mast Bar in 2009 chatting with the bartender, as two vendors laid down bar mats and worked on some fixtures, while Ray, who had to relocate to the outside of the bar, hustled back and forth to scan cards and make drinks because he had to keep the bar open despite the work. I also recall boxes of lightbulbs stacked in the promenade and piles of sheet metal in a forward hallway, all waiting to be installed in various locations. I remember thinking “they didn’t have this thing ready to go”, although admittedly they were little things.
That first voyage also had, on purpose, a smaller passenger load. I think it was around 4700 guests, and there was more than one reason. Primarily, Royal Caribbean wanted to ease into carrying 6000+ guests weekly and not just jump into the fire without getting the processes fine tuned and the crew up to speed on handling the large crowds. If a problem was apparent with 4700 guests, you didn’t want it to happen with 6300 guests aboard. Another reason was the ship sailed on that December 1 cruise two rescue vessels light, owing to damage incurred on them during the transatlantic run to deliver the ship to Port Everglades. So – fewer lifeboats, fewer guests.
On that initial cruise the service and food was good but there were some growing pains (to be expected) and some shortfalls were evident. A big issue was the shows for the Aqua Theater were not ready and after initial cancellations they put together an abbreviated program that came up a bit short on the expectations which were hyped by the company as the Oasis was readied for it’s triumphant debut.
More than one of us left the ship thinking they had a little more work to do to get the kinks worked out.
Fast Forward To Now
June 8, 2013. I returned to the Oasis Of The Seas with my wife and son to celebrate our son’s graduating from high school (honors graduate!). We had booked a Junior Suite the year prior, and this cruise was going to be our first since achieving Diamond Plus member level in the Crown & Anchor Society. Thus we were all set for this cruise and getting excited as the day approached. That excitement overflowed when two days prior to the cruise I received a phone call from Royal Caribbean offering me a complimentary upgrade to a Grand Suite. It took about 2 seconds for me to accept the upgrade. This is what a true upgrade is – a move to a larger cabin with more amenities, and not just to an identical accommodation on a higher deck.
Embarkation for the Oasis and Allure is truly a textbook example of how to manage large groups of people. It was so in 2009 and remains one of the slickest operations I’ve seen. The key to the success is having enough employees at the terminal, have them well-trained and motivated, and to keep the arriving guests constantly moving. Suite guests have a separate security line, and are then greeted by a personal escort who walks them up to the check-in desks. We were checking in less than 5 minutes after dropping off the luggage. Seriously. It was that quick. It isn’t that much slower using the regular check-in line.
Once aboard the Oasis I was surprised at how quickly everything came back to me as far as the layout and how to get from point A to point B. The ship is huge but when you know your way around it doesn’t seem as big anymore.
Food was very good just about everywhere. The lunch in the Solarium Bistro was not memorable and everything there tasted bland to me. The Windjammer was normally good – and packed with people. The smart guest uses the interactive screens by the elevators and in other areas to check on the seating status of the numerous eateries aboard. I had a great burger at Johnny Rockets on embarkation day. Yes it meant paying a cover charge, but the place was almost deserted and thus we lingered there until the cabins were open for the guests – usually 1pm or so.
Sorrento’s Pizza was also usually packed, owing to it’s being on the Promenade and ‘there’ as people walk by. However the service is always fast and you can get a take-away box.
We had dinner one night at Chops. Now, this is $30 per person which is supposed to include the gratuities. However they still present a bill, even if you prepaid or booked online, which is meant to entice you to offer additional tips. Chops used to be something special but to me it is not so unique anymore. There are too many other dining choices I guess, such as Giovanni’s Table and 150 Central Park – both of which are excellent. At Chops I had a perfectly cooked medium rare filet mignon and impeccable service.
The main dining room was surprisingly good. I don’t mean that as a slam, but the fact is when you have to plan to feed 6000+ guests it is hard to plate a high quality entree consistently. I am happy to report that every meal we had in the main dining room was at least very good and sometimes excellent. The lamb entrees were a hit with me. The lamb shank being superb, and the rack of lamb a close second. There is still a problem with the escargot supply and it was not on the menu for our cruise. Our waiter, Vien from India, was outstanding. I’ve never seen a waiter who was so synchronized. He was constantly in motion, never forgetting anything, even the least little detail, and was quite charming. The same goes for the assistant waiter Fernando from Peru.
So to summarize, you can eat well on Oasis and that is a tribute to an excellent culinary staff and management.
The shows were excellent. The aqua theater is a great venue and the Oasis Of Dreams show is a must-see, even if you have done it before. Same for the Broadway production of Hairspray.
We enjoyed the Grand Suite and the amenities offered to suite guests. The Concierge Lounge was always a restful place, and on Oasis and Allure it is a great place to have breakfast with a full menu. Of course, this lounge is only open to suite guests and Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Club members, but in these cases they have paid for the privilege, one way or another.
We had beautiful weather all week and calm seas. It was a very relaxing cruise where, really, everything was as close to perfect as it can be. I really wanted to stay another week. The crew was uniformly gracious, and happy really. Everyone was professional and motivated, doing their utmost to make sure the guests enjoyed their cruise. I’d be lying if I said I had never encountered a disgruntled crew member on a cruise, even on Royal Caribbean. This was definitely not the case aboard Oasis. Great crew – everywhere, all the time.
Oasis will be making a trek to Europe in the fall of 2014, both to do a small series of cruises and to enter the shipyard for it’s first refurbishment since the 2009 debut. This primarily will involve replacing some furnishings, fittings, and other routine maintenance items such as diesel overhauls, although to be honest the ship looked almost as good as new to my trained eyes. The only things I noticed were two instances of the same elevator being taken out of service and repaired. The decks, chairs, bars, etc., all are in excellent condition. And as always, the ship was sparkling clean.
And there you have it, my thoughts about the Oasis at the beginning and again almost 4 years later. Well Done to the crew of Oasis Of The Seas!